Category: Ethics & Design


Improving Our Ethical Choices: Managing the Imp of the Perverse

September 30th, 2008 — 11:06am

Design­ers inter­ested in the new chal­lenges of ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing / ubi­comp, ethics, and the future of inte­grated expe­ri­ences will enjoy Improv­ing Our Eth­i­cal Choices: Man­ag­ing the Imp of the Per­verse, pub­lished in UXMat­ters on Sep­tem­ber 8th.
Rang­ing from Baude­laire to the Big Chill, with Edgar Allen Poe as guid­ing spirit, this fourth and final install­ment of the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series writ­ten for UXMat­ters pro­vides prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions — drawn mostly from busi­ness, psy­chol­ogy, and ethics researchers — on how to bal­ance the ten­sions of dif­fi­cult design choices. We’re not all philoso­phers, so as always the focus is on insights into how we make all types of deci­sions, not sim­ply eth­i­cal dilem­mas.
Align­ing The Deci­sion Cycle
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Here’s an excerpt:
Eth­i­cal fad­ing, the ten­sion between our Want and Should Selves, and our nat­ural ten­dency to cre­ate juicy ratio­nal­iza­tions are pow­er­ful obsta­cles to the mak­ing of eth­i­cal design choices. As UX pro­fes­sion­als, how can we bet­ter align our Want and Should Selves, ensur­ing that we cre­ate eth­i­cal expe­ri­ences?
I learned a great deal about myself and my out­look while research­ing and writ­ing this series of arti­cles. I hope read­ers find the insights and tools valu­able; either directly as a resource for deal­ing with eth­i­cal chal­lenges of the new inte­grated expe­ri­ences, or more gen­er­ally dur­ing the day to day ebb and flow of design work.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, The Working Life, User Experience (UX)

Ethics and Design Podcast: Part Deux

June 30th, 2008 — 4:30pm

The I.A. Pod­cast (by Jeff Parks of I.A. Con­sul­tants and Box­e­san­dAr­rows pod­cast fame) just pub­lished the sec­ond of two inter­views dis­cussing research on ethics, design, social media, and con­flict.
Play and down­load the sec­ond inter­view here.
Sub­scribe to the iTunes and feed­burner feeds for the I.A. Pod­cast here.
These pod­casts are based on the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series I’m writ­ing for UXMat­ters: watch for pub­li­ca­tion of the final arti­cle later this sum­mer.
Thanks again, Jeff!

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Social Media, User Experience (UX)

Understanding Juicy Rationalizations: How Designers Make Ethical Choices

June 23rd, 2008 — 5:35pm

Under­stand­ing Juicy Ratio­nal­iza­tions, part 3 of the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series, just went live at UXMat­ters.
Here’s the teaser:
From “The Big Chill“
Michael: “I don’t know any­one who could get through the day with­out two or three juicy ratio­nal­iza­tions.“
“They’re more impor­tant than sex.“
Sam: “Ah, come on. Nothing’s more impor­tant than sex.“
Michael: “Oh yeah? Ever gone a week with­out a ratio­nal­iza­tion?“

Design­ers ratio­nal­ize their choices just as much as every­one else. But we also play a unique role in shap­ing the human world by cre­at­ing the expres­sive and func­tional tools many peo­ple use in their daily lives. Our deci­sions about what is and is not eth­i­cal directly impact the lives of a tremen­dous num­ber of peo­ple we will never know. Bet­ter under­stand­ing of the choices we make as design­ers can help us cre­ate more eth­i­cal user expe­ri­ences for our­selves and for every­one.

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Under­stand­ing Juicy Ratio­nal­iza­tions is the first of a pair of arti­cles focused on the ways that indi­vid­ual design­ers make eth­i­cal choices, and how we can improve our choices. This sec­ond pair of arti­cles is a bit of eye-opening win­dow into how peo­ple make many of the choices in our daily lives — not just design deci­sions. Or, at least it was for me… Read­ers will see con­nec­tions much broader than sim­ply choices we explic­itly think of as ‘eth­i­cal’ and / or design related.
The final install­ment in the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series is titled Man­ag­ing the Imp of the Per­verse; watch for it some­time soon.
With the pub­li­ca­tion of these next two arti­cles, the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series con­sists of two sets of matched pairs of arti­cles; the first arti­cle in each pair fram­ing a prob­lem­atic real-life sit­u­a­tion design­ers will face, and the sec­ond sug­gest­ing some ways to resolve these chal­lenges eth­i­cally.
The first pair of arti­cles — Social Media and the Con­flicted Future and Some Prac­ti­cal Sug­ges­tions for Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences — looked at broad cul­tural and tech­nol­ogy trends like social media and DIY / co-creation, sug­gest­ing ways to dis­cover and man­age likely eth­i­cal con­flicts within the design process.
It’s a nice sym­met­ri­cal struc­ture, if you dig that sort of thing.  (And what archi­tect doesn’t?)
For com­muters / multi-taskers / peo­ple who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, Jeff Parks inter­viewed me on the con­tents of this sec­ond set of arti­cles, which he will pub­lish shortly as a pod­cast.
Thanks again to the edi­to­r­ial team at UXMat­ters for sup­port­ing my explo­ration of this very impor­tant topic for the future of expe­ri­ence design. In an age when every­one can lever­age professional-grade adver­tis­ing the likes of Spo­tun­ner, the eth­i­cal­ity of the expres­sive tools and frame­works design­ers cre­ate is a ques­tion of crit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance for us all.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Social Media, User Experience (UX)

Ethics and Design Interview Live

June 13th, 2008 — 7:34pm

The I.A. Pod­cast (by Jeff Parks of I.A. Con­sul­tants and Box­e­san­dAr­rows pod­cast fame) just pub­lished the first of two inter­views we recorded recently, talk­ing about ethics, design, social media, and con­flict.
Play and down­load the inter­view here.
Sub­scribe to the iTunes and feed­burner feeds for the I.A. Pod­cast here.
Stay tuned for the sec­ond inter­view!
Thanks Jeff!

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Ideas, Social Media

Does Being Ethical Pay?

May 12th, 2008 — 11:16am

Com­pa­nies spend huge amounts of money to be ‘socially respon­si­ble.’ Do con­sumers reward them for it? And how much?’ is the leader for a short piece titled Does Being Eth­i­cal Pay? just pub­lished in Sloan Man­age­ment Review. The quick answer is “Yes”, so it’s worth read­ing fur­ther to learn the spe­cific ways that eth­i­cal­ity plays into people’s spend­ing deci­sions.
Here’s an excerpt:

In all of our tests, con­sumers were will­ing to pay a slight pre­mium for the eth­i­cally made goods. But they went much fur­ther in the other direc­tion: They would buy uneth­i­cally made prod­ucts only at a steep dis­count.


What’s more, con­sumer atti­tudes played a big part in shap­ing those results. Peo­ple with high stan­dards for cor­po­rate behav­ior rewarded the eth­i­cal com­pa­nies with big­ger pre­mi­ums and pun­ished the uneth­i­cal ones with big­ger dis­counts.

At least accord­ing to this research, being eth­i­cal is a nec­es­sary attribute for a prod­uct.
There are clear impli­ca­tions for prod­uct design: ethics should be on the table as a con­cern at all stages of prod­uct devel­op­ment, from ideation and con­cept­ing of new prod­ucts, to the mar­ket­ing and sales of fin­ished prod­ucts.
And these (lim­ited, cer­tainly not the final word) find­ings match with the idea of adding ethics to the set of impor­tant user expe­ri­ence qual­i­ties cap­tured in Peter Morville’s UX Hon­ey­comb.
The (Aug­mented) Eth­i­cal UX Hon­ey­comb
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How are user expe­ri­ence design­ers tak­ing the eth­i­cal qual­i­ties of their work into account?

Comment » | Ethics & Design, User Research

Designing Ethical Experiences: Some Practical Suggestions Live @ UXMatters

April 13th, 2008 — 11:52am

A quick anounce­ment: part two of the series on ethics and expe­ri­ence design Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences: Some Prac­ti­cal Sug­ges­tions, is just live at UXMat­ters. In this fol­lowup to the first install­ment, you’ll find a fiarly exten­sive set of sug­gested tech­niques for resolv­ing con­flicts — eth­i­cal and oth­er­wise — dur­ing the strat­egy and design phases of expe­ri­ence design efforts. If you’ve had issues with ethics or con­flict dur­ing a design effort, these sim­ple tech­niques should be a use­ful start­ing point.
Look­ing ahead, part three of the series will explore recent research on the way that peo­ple make deci­sions with eth­i­cal impli­ca­tions in busi­ness set­tings (good for design­ers who want to be aware of their own meth­ods and states of mind, and how those drive design work), and the impor­tance of neu­tral mod­els in mak­ing eth­i­cal design deci­sions.
Here’s an excerpt:
Thank­fully, suc­cess­fully address­ing eth­i­cal chal­lenges dur­ing design does not require the cre­ation of a for­mal or detailed code of ethics–or the cre­ation of a pro­fes­sional body that would sus­tain such an effort. Design­ers can use the fact that eth­i­cal ques­tions often appear first in the form of conflicts–in val­ues, goals, men­tal mod­els, or otherwise–to man­age eth­i­cal dilem­mas as sim­ply another form of con­flict. Fur­ther, we can treat con­flict as a nat­ural, though often unex­plored ele­ment of the larger con­text user expe­ri­ence always seeks to under­stand. With this fram­ing, con­flict becomes a new layer of inte­grated experiences–a layer that encom­passes eth­i­cal dilem­mas. We can prag­mat­i­cally incor­po­rate this new layer of eth­i­cal dilem­mas into our exist­ing frame­works for user experience.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, User Experience (UX)

User Experience and the Security State: JetBlue's New Terminal

March 11th, 2008 — 5:58pm

The design of JetBlue’s new ter­mi­nal at JFK as reported in the NY Times is a good exam­ple of the inter­sec­tion of user expe­ri­ence design, and the spe­cific tech­ni­cal and polit­i­cal require­ments of the post-9/11 security-oriented state. The lay­out of the new ter­mi­nal is focused on direct­ing pas­sen­gers as quickly as pos­si­ble through a screen of 20 secu­rity lanes, and includes thought­ful fea­tures like wide secu­rity gates to accom­mo­date lug­gage and wheel­chairs, and rub­ber floor­ing for areas where peo­ple end up bare­foot.
I’m of two minds about design­ing expe­ri­ences and archi­tec­tures specif­i­cally to enable secu­rity pur­poses. Any­thing that improves the cur­rently mis­er­able expe­ri­ence of pass­ing through secu­rity screen­ings is good. (I am wait­ing for reports on peo­ple who show up at the gate wear­ing only a speedo one of these days, just to make a point.)
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But in the long run, do we really want expe­ri­ence design to help us become cul­tur­ally accus­tomed to a security-dominated mind­set? Espe­cially to the point where we encode this view of the world into our infra­struc­ture? Lurk­ing not so qui­etly below the sur­face of the design of the new Jet­Blue ter­mi­nal is Bentham’s Panop­ti­con (full con­tents here). The new terminal’s floor plan is a clas­sic fun­nel shape, dis­turbingly sim­i­lar in con­cept to the abat­toir / apart­ment block described in the famous Monty Python Archi­tect Sketch.
Pace lay­er­ing makes clear that archi­tec­tures change slowly once in place. And author­i­ties rarely cede sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ties, even after their util­ity and rel­e­vance expire. Should expe­ri­ence design make an archi­tec­ture ded­i­cated to sur­veil­lance tol­er­a­ble, or even comfortable?

Comment » | architecture, Ethics & Design, User Experience (UX)

Video of My BlogTalk Presentation

March 11th, 2008 — 2:26pm

Video of my BlogTalk pre­sen­ta­tion ‘What hap­pens when every­one designs social media? Prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions for han­dling new eth­i­cal dilem­mas’ is avail­able from Ustream.tv. The res­o­lu­tion is low (it was shot with a web­cam) but the audio is good: fol­low along with the slides on your own for the full expe­ri­ence.

More videos of BlogTalk ses­sions here.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, Networks and Systems, User Experience (UX)

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